The Creators Project: Dream Factory

Design Features

It’s difficult to whittle The Creators Project down to an elevator pitch. Since its inception in late 2009, the arts and technology-funding initiative (created by VICE and Intel) has brought artists and innovators together from every corner of the technical and creative world to collaborate. As a result, M83’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming video series featured a clutch of superhuman children, Coachella’s dance tent got a laser-lit facelift and leading up to their recent release Centipede Hz, Animal Collective hosted some of the freakiest radio since Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds. That’s just a sampling of the music-focused projects. In recent months, The Creators Project has also used their platform to champion 3D Facebook sculptures, a performance artist crowd-sourcing her blind dates and body language-inspired jewelry. So, is it possible to boil down everything The Creators Project does into a concise, two-sentence mission statement? No, says creative director Ciel Hunter.

“That’s always a problem,” she laughs. “When an intern says ‘Tell me about the Creators Project!’ I’m like, ‘Oh boy, do you have a while?’ The best way we can phrase it is that it’s a platform trying to tell the story of how technology has affected the arts. What’s exciting is how many different ways that plays out.”

With art now removed from specialty film houses and wine-and-cheese gallery openings with the press of a button, the nature of creative endeavors in the modern world is a sprawling conversation. While there are as many ways to address it as there are dot-coms, Hunter sees one of The Creators Project’s main thrusts as moving art outside of traditional venues and platforms.

“I like to think that’s something we’ve done a good job of, sitting a little bit outside more established areas,” muses Hunter. “Galleries, museums, everything like that, a lot of our people function in those areas. We can support things that don’t fit into any of those genres.”

Abby Portner—creative director for Animal Collective—couldn’t be happier to be part of the discussion.

“I have a hard time with art being worth money and art being something that no one sees,” says the Parsons-trained illustrator. “That’s the gallery world. Tons of people watch The Creators Project streams that would never go to Chelsea, which is cool…It is the future: art being digital and having events that you can see worldwide. Or having something that everyone can participate in. All the things that Creators Project has been focusing on. It definitely is pushing into a different realm of art that we would have never thought of 10 years ago.”

With a diminishing demand for physical music, The Creators Project is a perfect place for musicians who look to add an additional element of interactivity to their craft. Los Angeles musician Jason Chung (who performs as Nosaj Thing) is one in an increasing number of musicians to place an emphasis on live visuals.

“The way I perform with a laptop and MIDI controller, I didn’t like the feeling of people looking at me doing that,” he says, listing Daft Punk and Fever Ray as inspirations for his live show. “That’s what I wanted to do—make the audience forget about where they are and create an environment.”

For Chung, his entrance into The Creators Project came after a curated event in Seoul, South Korea, when he mentioned to Hunter that he wanted to collaborate with Japanese artist Daito Manabe. The match-up struck a chord with Hunter, who immediately commissioned the project. The resulting video, a shadowy modern dance-meets-light-show-meets-Greek-myth homage for Nosaj Thing single “Eclipse/Blue” was completed and turned in a little more than a month later. While the collaboration was facilitated via Twitter, Chung counts the support of The Creators Project as an invaluable part of the process.

“What they did is they helped tremendously by putting Daito and I on their platform and presenting it to the right audience,” he says. “That was the most helpful.”

While Chase and Manabe’s collaboration was fairly straightforward, The Creators Project isn’t afraid to invest resources in less defined ideas.

“My favorite kind of project that we approach is when there’s also a really cool technological challenge that an artist needs to realize an idea and help to get it to them by working with Intel engineers or working with their labs,” says Hunter. “It’s really exciting when we can actually help to facilitate an idea through this partnership.”

Portner says that the organization’s anything-goes attitude, coupled with their ongoing support (both financial and technical), sparked her attraction to The Creators Project.

“It makes it less intimidating as an artist,” she says. “So many places of resource or funding are so specific that you have to cater to them more than you have an idea. The Creators Project is just the opposite.”

Together, Portner and The Creators Project fleshed out a weekly web radio broadcast, where—leading up to the release of the band’s new album—Animal Collective presented remixes, album tracks and inspirations in a woozy sound quilt. To complement the broadcasts, Portner created a series of eerie visual accompaniments. The task took her most of the summer.

“Animal Collective and Creators Project worked together with me, because they didn’t want me to do anything else,” she recalls. “That’s super rare in any job. You’re always doing one job and thinking about the next job and when your paycheck is going to come.”

Mulling over potential future collaboration with The Creators Project, Portner says what they’ve done together has already had a lasting effect on the way she views art.

“I’ve learned to push more,” she says. “I’ve pushed myself to learn more about mapping and lighting and video. I think this whole experience has made me want to do that more and learn more about it. It’s cool as a visual person to have another aspect of showing your work. I would never have done that without The Creators Project. I’ve gotten too techie and nerdy. And I draw!”

Portner’s renewed excitement for her craft is perhaps one of the most affirming responses The Creators Project could hope for.

“The exciting aspect of this is how we can push everyone out of their comfort zones,” says Hunter. “That’s the thing: if you want to be in this process and be a core part of this, then you want to be open to experimentation and new experiences.”

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